Death threats against Lida Yusupova

Press release

Closure of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
Raising Fear and Insecurity for Human Rights Defenders

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deepest concern about new threats and serious acts of repression against human rights defenders and organisations in the Russian Federation.

On October 12, 2006, Mrs. Lida Yusupova, a lawyer and head of the office of Memorial in Grozny (Chechnya), was threatened with death by a man speaking Chechen, who called her on her mobile phone and said : « You are pleased to be a nominee of the Nobel Peace Price ? Presuming you’ll still be alive then ! ». Lida Yusupova, who devotes herself to gathering testimonies from victims and accompanies them in their dealings with the security services and the army, received the 2004 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [1].

These threats occured less than one week after the assassination of Mrs. Anna Politkovskaya a prominent investigative journalist, correspondent of the Novaya Gazeta, in Moscow, on October 7, 2006. They also occured just after the publication, on the website of an ultra-nationalist group called "The Russian Will", of a list of 89 persons, considered as "traitors to the Nation" or "friends of foreigners". The group, which disseminated the addresses and personal data of these persons, in August and September 2006, was calling for their physical elimination. The list included the names of several human rights defenders, such as Mrs. Svetlana Gannuchkina, President of the Committee for Civil Assistance, who was on the top of the list and also received death threats on the phone, or Mr. Sergey Kovalov, a former well-known dissident. The Prosecutor decided not to open a judicial investigation, claiming, in particular, that he could not find charges corresponding to the case.

In addition, the Observatory has learnt with great concern that the Court of Nizny-Novgorod decided, on October 13, 2006, to close down the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS).

The RCFS had been informed on October 10, 2006, that Novgorod’s Prrsecutor had opened a judicial procedure to close down the organisation, on the ground that Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, executive director of RCFS, had been sentenced to a two-year suspended prison sentence for "Incitation to national hatred" in February 2006 [2] . Indeed, according to article 15 of the Law on the Fight Against

Extremist Activities "if the head or a member of the leadership of an NGO makes a public declaration in which he or she calls for an extremist act or if he or she was sentenced for an extremist act, his or her organisation must publicly declare its disapproval within five days [...]; the failure to do so by an organisation will be considered as an extremist act on the part of this organisation". Moreover, the judge based himself on article 19 of the Federal Law on NGOs, according to which « a person who was sentenced on the basis of the Law on the Fight Against Extremist Activities cannot be co-founder of an organisation". Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievski said that he would appeal this decision.

The Observatory notes with concern that the judge refused to postpone the trial which began on October 12, 2006, though RCFS members were informed of the date of the hearing on October 11, 2006 only.

As mentioned in its statement made on the occasion of the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation, on October 10, 2006, the Observatory is very concerned about the deterioration of fundamental freedoms in the Russian Federation and the hardening of the position of the federal authorities towards independent civil society. Indeed, these authorities are either directly responsible of acts of reprisals against defenders or fail to protect them by failing to put an end to the impunity of authors of violations against them.

The Observatory urges the Russian authorities to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Russia, and to ensure independent and impartial investigations into acts of violence against them in order to identify their authors, bring them to justice and sanction them according to the law.

The Observatory also urges the Russian authorities to revise their legislation so as to conform with international and regional standards, relative to freedoms of association and expression - in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention and the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Second Conference on the Human Dimension of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) -, and to guarantee, in any circumstances, the independence of the judiciary.

Finally, the Observatory calls the Russian authorities to conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 12.2 which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

Read more